Idea Generation Workshop: Starter for 10

We happen to think idea generation is an art form. It's about setting a safe, creative space for people to feel like they can say anything, be wild, and not be judged – so that new ideas can be born. IDEO

Following on from our last post on running an innovation workshop we thought it might be useful to outline a suggested approach for running an idea generation session. Every session we run looks and feels different depending on the client and the desired outcome. Below we have detailed our general approach but as always we would encourage you to freestyle and be as creative as you can, as this will always deliver better results.

Ice Breaking

Lots of posts already on ice breaking exercises but really the important thing here is that you invite a diverse crowd; don’t be afraid to invite new starters, including graduates and wild card thinkers. If you’re are trying to create new product or service for customers, then it’s always good to invite front line staff.

Sponsor – state of the nation address

A good kick off session from the sponsor explaining the challenge statement and the scope – sometimes it can be as valuable to state what’s out of scope so you don’t waste time. Try to get your main sponsor to be actively involved in the session and this way you can continually check in during the day that the session is delivering - don’t leave it till the end when it’s far too late.

Ideation Rules

IDEO know a thing or two about running this type of session and their rules are a good place to start. We always find it useful to start the session by ‘practicing’ idea generation on a non-related ‘safe’ subject, e.g. how can we encourage children to exercise more? This helps with practicing behaviours and building confidence.

Introducing Stimulus

At the start of a session it’s important to capture all those ‘top of head ideas’; these usually include pet ideas, obvious ideas, ideas which have been around a long time and the ideas that were thought up on the journey to the session to impress you. In order to generate fresh ideas you need to start introducing different stimulus; this can be via external speakers, analysis of macro trends, adjacent industries or bringing real customers with real problems into your session. After the introduction of each stimulus capture the fresh ideas on post it notes.

Clustering and Building Ideas

It’s probably around lunch time now and you have walls filled with post it notes – this is the time to grab your sponsor and start to cluster ideas. Essentially, categorising the ideas into similar groups. This is definitely more art than science and does get easier with practice – our advice at this stage is not to over think it. The next step is to then start building out the ideas. We usually use a simple one page template, explaining a basic description of the idea, how it works, why it’s different; a rough drawing can work really well here to explain the concept. We usually find the very act of having to articulate an idea on a piece of paper helps shape an idea very quickly which may enhance it or may ultimately lead to its demise.

Voting – Finding the Winners or not

After some form of sharing ideas and capturing feedback maybe through a Dragons Den type exercise, it’s useful to capture the mood of the room and to ask people to identify their favourites. This can be done with simple sticker voting or maybe more creatively. We once gave everyone 10 chocolate coins and asked them to place investments. A word of warning though! Although this can be a great way to end a session, it’s often not the ideas which are presented back that are the real winners. These will often be buried in the realms of Post-It Notes and are often the ideas which were too scary, not fully understood, or just far too tricky.

Your work has only just started …

Here’s a few links/resources we like and hope they will help you run better idea generation sessions:

We‘d love to hear from if you have started running idea generation sessions and this framework has been useful. Or if fancy a chat about the practicalities of innovating better then please get in touch at

#Ideas #Workshop #Innovation #Ideation


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